If you’re in the unappealing circumstance of facing criminal charges, it can be a pretty worrisome time. Depending on how serious the charges are you could face imprisonment, a substantive fine or another form of punishment.

Sometimes the best thing to do is challenge the prosecution to prove that you committed a crime. If they can’t prove it beyond reasonable doubt then you will be free to go with no record or punishment.

However, if the evidence is overwhelming, it’s much smarter to admit to the charges and make guilty plea. If you’re going to make a guilty plea, here are some tips to make sure you get the best outcome from it.

Plead early

Pleading guilty, no matter at what point in proceedings you do it, is always better than being found to be guilty by a judge. It is better, however, to plead guilty at the earliest opportunity as the court will take into the account you did not waste their time and resources.

If you plead early you may be able to get a lesser sentence because it implies that you have accepted your crime and feel genuinely remorseful for it, rather than trying to deny it.

Have a theme

Once you have pleaded guilty the court will then listen to submissions on how you should be sentenced. This is the time to qualify your actions to the Judge or Magistrate so they can understand any mitigating factors behind the crime.

Examples of a theme are that you recently lost your job and acted out of stress or that you were influenced by the use of drugs or alcohol. While none of this information excuses your actions it lets the court know that you did not commit your crime out of pure malicious intent.

Use character references

A character reference is when someone else, like your employer, vouches for your good character. This is useful when tied in with your aforementioned theme.

For example, if your theme was that what you did was totally unlike your true personality, character references that corroborate this would go a long way. Be careful not to rely too much on character references because some Judges or Magistrates may not place the same value on them.

Have a good lawyer

Obviously if you plead guilty your lawyer won’t help you disprove the charges but they can still be useful in softening the punishment you get. A good lawyer can make oral arguments as to why a lesser punishment should be chosen over a harsher one and can help you present things to the court based on their knowledge of the Judge or Magistrate.